real life

What it's like to lose a baby moments after birth, when it's not yours.

I come from (for lack of a better term) a ‘Brady Bunch’ family. I grew up super close to my siblings and now they are my best friends. I have great relationship with my parents and I always have. Everyone is always in each others business, everybody knows everything about each other and ‘I loves yous’ are given out like presents at Christmas.

My sister, Clare, is an amazing person. She is the type of person that says ‘Good Morning’ to strangers in the street and someone that you could call, day or night, and she would drop everything just to listen to you. I am in awe of her. I always have been.

Actually I’m pretty sure that growing up, my friends wanted to be her friend more than mine. I didn’t mind though, I liked it, it made me special for having the best sister going round. My sister is my person (Grey’s Anatomy term) I call her daily and I’m at her house constantly. When she gave birth to her son, my nephew, Rory, I was instantly over the moon in love. I had never felt love like that before.

Clare was (is) a great mum and I am constantly proud of her for what she achieves as a mum and a woman. I was so lucky to have Rory in my life and be given the opportunity to spend heaps of time with him. When he was first brought home from the hospital I was at their house more than my own and I even got to spend one night a week with him, while his parents slept. This was my favourite time. I felt so close to him, I think this time helped secure our bond. He was, and still is, my favourite person in this world. He is my reason to smile and be happy everyday.

Rory and Emma. Image supplied.

So when I found out that my sister was expecting her second child, I was thrilled. Another baby to love, what could be better? The whole family was stoked, a sibling for Rory, another grandchild, another family member to spoil. But then at Clare’s 20 week scan, she found out that something was wrong with her baby’s heart. Something was very wrong.

Clare and her husband were told that if their baby were to born carried to full term they may not live very long and would need surgery pretty instantly after birth and heart surgeries every time they grew throughout life. A life that would be restricted and short. With all this information, they made the brave decision to end the pregnancy. This would be no life for them, for Rory or for their precious baby. We were all gutted. Our dreams shattered, but we all knew that we needed to be strong for Clare and her husband, who were about to embark on the hardest and worst journey of their lives.

On Tuesday February 7th, 2017, my niece, Abby Clare was born. My sister was a superstar during her birth and Abby lived for a short while after she was born. Just enough time to be cuddled by her parents and be told how much she is loved. My life changed forever this day, everyone's did.

Listen to This Glorious Mess: What do you say to someone who's lost a baby? Post continues after audio.

I got to meet and hold her. Her face was the cutest, she looked a fair amount like her brother and has huge hands just like him too. The most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I can not imagine what my sister and her husband are going through because I know that I am devastated and heart broken and she wasn't even mine.

I know that they are broken and missing a piece of their lives and I am trying really hard to help them through this but I am really unsure of what to do… It's all uncharted territory for me. They are so strong and so brave but so hurt.

How do I mourn the loss of a niece that I never knew while trying to stay strong for those around me? It’s really hard. I can’t look back on memories shared because there are none, I can’t recall fun times spent together because there are none. All I can do is think about the ‘what could have beens’ and this just breaks my heart all over again.

I will miss nights alone with her while the rest of the world is sleeping. I will miss the first time she says my name. I will miss the first time she reaches for me. I will miss not getting to witness any of her firsts.

Abby's feet. Image supplied.

The loss of a baby is hard, but I didn't know how hard until now. I am angry that my sister (the nicest person in the world) has to go through this, I am sorry to anyone that has to go through this. It affects so many people and the grieving process (I am learning) is long and hard. All I can do is keep reminding myself that in time this wound will not be as raw and it will not hurt so much. And for now I can be there for my sister and brother in law and stay strong for my nephew when they can’t.

Sometimes I feel like because I am ‘just the Aunty’ that I shouldn't feel this sad and that I am not allowed to show my pain for fear of being judged by others but I have learnt that my feelings are valid. Whether I knew her or not, whatever age she was, I still lost a niece. I will never get to watch her grow and tell her she is loved and and I’m allowed to be sad about this. Any other people going through a similar experience, your grief is valid, your feelings are valid and you too will get through this.

For family members of someone who has lost a baby, be strong for them, support them and help them through this hard time but remember that it’s ok to feel all the emotions your self. Grieve, cry, scream, get mad and be sad. It’s OK, it will actually will make you feel better.